The Snake

Rosy works as a waitress in a restaurant that I go to on a regular basis. She is a very pleasant person who is attentive, lovable and has a way of brightening up anyone’s mood.

One day I went in and could hardly recognize her. Her eyes were puffed up as though she had been crying and she was walking around looking at the floor. She looked like she had just confronted the devil himself. Although I only knew her name and did not know her personally, I was moved by her state and I followed my impulse to ask her:

“Rosy, what’s going on?”

“Oh”, she said, “I have a case of the shingles and it is moving around to my back”, and at that very moment she broke down crying. Once she settled down she continued to explain that she had been to a few specialists and no one could cure it.

In Spanish it is called “la culebrina” which means “the snake”, because the shingles move under the skin in a snake like pattern. The skin eruptions continue to move in a linear fashion across the surface of the skin, and sometimes looks like there is a snake moving under the skin. The popular belief is that if the snake’s head makes its way around to your back and reaches its tail, you suffocate and die.

            So I asked her:

“When did the shingles, ‘the snake’ show up for the first time?”

“It has been almost three weeks now”, she responds.

I continued, “Do you have any memory of what happened the day it started or perhaps the day before?” Sometimes the symptoms can surface a little after the main event, especially symptoms that come out in the skin.

“What happened when?” she asked strangely.

“Did something bad happen, did you get upset with someone, did someone get mad at you or did you feel hurt in any way right around when it started?”

 It turns out that there had been a family reunion the day before and there had been an episode. She had been in the process of giving her opinion on something and her best friend openly contradicted her in front of everyone. Then things got worse as her friend treated her with disrespect and started to argue with her. Later things got even worst as her own husband joined in and took the side of her friend.

Rosy did feel like she had been bitten by a snake and had been betrayed by her best friend, which was something she never would have expected. To make matters worse, her own husband did not defend her but went against her by supporting her friend. Until this day the situation had not been resolved. She was so hurt that she had not spoken to her friend since then and things were operating at a minimum with her husband as well.

She sat there thinking hard and all of a sudden she was completely taken aback and could clearly see what was happening. She was making connections in her mind and it was all making sense. At that point she calmed down. I love those moments!

The curious thing for me was how her creative process produced the shingles, rather than a common cold for instance. There must have been some connection to shingles from a previous time. How else could she have created such a unique condition?

We continued to talk about things and as we spoke, she had a memory of when she was a child, of going with her grandmother to see a medicine woman. Her grandmother had gone to this medicine woman with a case of the shingles, “la culebrina”, and she was healed. Rosy did not remember the complete details, just that it had been a major event in her grandmother’s life. Something to do with some sort of betrayal. Well this had obviously registered as a major event in Rosy’s childhood.

The next time I went to the restaurant she looked great, with that fresh and happy way that she always had. When she saw me, she came over to tell me that the shingles had gone away. The ‘snake’ had disappeared.